which way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to...
There's a certain logic to what the cat said to Alice. You need to know where you're going before you decide how to get there.
When you make a mistake with colored pencils, there's not a one size fits all solution. Smart colorers evaluate the damage and decide upon the path that gets them around the mistake without creating a ton of damage in the process.
Erasers are not magical. They can't remove the whole mistake. They can only remove enough to get you back on the correct path.
An eraser is not a time machine, it won't take you back to the day before you made the mistake.
Huh. That's a rather important statement. So let me say that again, in bolder, bigger letters:
an eraser is not a time machine
We're talking about colored pencil here. Just colored pencil. Because if you're here looking for a marker eraser, boy, are you fresh out of luck. You can minimize marker damage with a colorless blender but you're never going to do more than camouflage your marker mistakes.
But back to colored pencil- and for that, I'm sorry break this to you, but there's not going to be a perfect erasing solution here either.
You can minimize the damage but you're never going to take yourself back to fresh clean paper. Erasers are not the stuff of H.G. Wells.
I think part of the problem is because we call them colored pencils. When you hear pencils, you think graphite and for every graphite pencil, there's a pretty good eraser, right?
Now if we were more accurate and we started calling colored pencils what they really are... I'd suggest calling them freekishly-stubborn-sticks-of-color-that-ain't-goin'-nowhere, but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue... But if we really did call them FSSoCTAGN, then people would stop expecting to be able to remove every single colored pencil mistake they ever make.
A colored pencil eraser can't take you back to Eden, it can only make you feel a little less miserable about goofing up.
So let's review the primary rule of erasing mistakes:
First, do no harm.
Remember, paper has tooth and tooth is essential to good colored pencil coloring. Tooth is what grabs your colored pencil pigment and holds onto it. Colored pencil doesn't work well on glass, does it? It doesn't work well on glassy papers either. Tooth is vital to the coloring process.
ALL ERASERS DAMAGE TOOTH
There's no way to avoid it. Any rubbing, any friction, any eraser will flatten out the paper tooth and thus make it harder to color over the erasure zone.
So when you make a mistake, start with the lightest, most paper friendly eraser you can find. You don't have to pull out a hand grenade when a fluffy bunny will work.
Made a mistake? Start here:
- Sticky Tack Eraser- this is your fluffy bunny eraser. It lightly lifts color without damaging your paper. Read more about sticky tack and how to use it here.
- White Polymer Eraser- if the fluffy bunny doesn't work, try your new best friend. White erasers are non-abrasive and grit free. That means they rub without sanding away much of the paper surface. Most of your mistakes can be removed with a white eraser. Read about white erasers here and here.
But if the fluffy bunny can't handle the mistake and your new best friend doesn't make a dent in it, what should you do?
That's when you call in the big boy. BUT ONLY AFTER YOU'VE TRIED THE STICKY TACK AND THE WHITE ERASER!
Who is the big boy?
Meet the Black Polymer Eraser
They're made by several companies, Factis is the kind that just happens to be at the cash register display of my favorite local art store.
Pentel, Faber Castell, Staedtler, and Tombow also make good black erasers. The one you want to avoid is the Black Pearl variety.
Just remember the Johnny Depp movie, the Curse of the Black Pearl. That's easy to remember.
A black pearl won't ruin your life but it is way too abrasive for our needs. Save it for the class room.
By the way, that goes for white pearls and pink pearls too. They're all school erasers, not art erasers.
So what's so special about a black eraser?
Well, he's a body builder compared to our other erasers.
We started with the weakest eraser on purpose, but sometimes you need more muscle.
In the eraser world, abrasive grit is muscle. Grit is what's ultimately going to remove the mistake.
But it's a trade-off- grit gets the job done but it'll also damage the tooth. So we want something muscular but with control.
We want a smooth operator; a big guy with some sensitivity. We want don't want the Terminator, we want the Kindergarten Cop. That's the black polymer eraser.
Here's a sample of each eraser at work on a thick and heavy coat of Prismacolor Premier pencil.
Sticky tack lightens the area. It doesn't erase, it takes the sting off the mistake. Once you've lightened the mistake, you can layer on the correct color. Prismacolor is fairly opaque, this gentle re-coloring process is usually all the correction you need.
But if if isn't enough, try the white eraser. It's stronger than the fluffy bunny sticky tack but you're still preserving the tooth of the paper. Lift what you can and then recolor the zone.
The black eraser is your last resort. It removes most of the color, but it will never get it all. Remember, we are deliberately avoiding the hand grenade in order to keep as much tooth intact as possible.
The black eraser has a slight bit of grit so it can remove most of the color. It doesn't have enough grit to dig down into all the crevices.
Think of what's leftover after a black eraser as the Cheshire Cat's smile... the old pigment is still there but it's not enough to get in your way anymore.
Black polymer erasers remove just enough color to allow you a re-try. The downside is that if you over-rub the area with a black eraser, you will damage the paper. That's why it's the eraser of last resort. You never grab the black eraser first; use it only when the fluffy bunny and the best friend white eraser aren't lifting enough color to control the mistake.
And no, it won't leave a black smudge on your paper. I wouldn't do that to you! Good black erasers erase cleanly.
Here's the rundown on black polymer erasers:
Black PVC eraser, black polymer eraser, black poly eraser
Factis, Pentel, Faber Castell, Staedtler, and Tombow
A rubbery eraser with a slight bit of grit, black in color but erases cleanly
Best used on-
Works great on graphite projects. Good on wax based colored pencil marks and other media that sit on top of the paper surface. Will not work on liquids like ink or paint that absorb into paper fibers.
Prices vary, usually under $4 per eraser. Sold in multi-packs
Some art stores, some craft stores, most online art supply retailers
So to recap: No time machines, only fluffy bunnies, BFFs, and Cheshire cats...
We're either talking in code or we're all mad here.